These Conditions Can Cause Itchy Bumps on Your Elbows

There are many reasons you may be experiencing itchy bumps on your elbow. This article covers some of those reasons.

Itchy bump on elbow

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Psoriasis

Individuals who have psoriasis are known to have an overactive immune system that also causes inflammation in the body. When skin cells grow and fall off, it usually takes a month.

For people with psoriasis, the skin cells grow within three to four days, causing the cells to pile up on the surface of the skin. Some of the symptoms of psoriasis include patches on the skin that are scaly and itchy.

On the elbows, psoriasis can show up as plaque psoriasis, which are raised patches with white and silvery scales.

Another type that can affect the elbows is guttate psoriasis. Only 8% of people with this condition experience this type of psoriasis. The symptoms include round, small spots that show up on the elbows due to inflammation.

Treatment

Treatments for psoriasis depend on the severity. The options for treatments include:

  • Topical steroids
  • Nonsteroidal ointments and creams
  • Phototherapy

Phototherapy is a treatment that is conducted under medical supervision. It exposes the affected skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis.

Other treatments include prescription medications and/or injections.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition caused by genetics, stress, the environment, or an immune system that is affected by irritants or allergens. It also causes inflammation of the skin.

Eczema damages the skin barrier, and as a result it makes the skin more sensitive. When the elbow is affected with eczema, it can appear as discolored, swollen, dry, and patchy, and it can be itchy.

Treatment

Some of the treatments for eczema include:

  • Prescription medications, such as creams, shots, or pills
  • Phototherapy
  • Over-the-counter ointments

In addition to treatment, try using soap that is fragrance free, hypoallergenic, and for sensitive skin. A humidifier can also help if the air is too dry.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a common condition that causes an itchy or painful skin rash due to an irritant or allergic reaction.

There are two types of contact dermatitis:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to a substance like preservatives, fragrances, certain metals, and cosmetics. The rash can appear from minutes to a few days after exposure to the allergen.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis is a rash that develops because of a substance that is irritating. This can come from cleaners, acid, detergents, or soaps. The symptoms will show up as swollen, itchy, burning, flaky bumps on the elbows.

Treatment

Treatment for contact dermatitis includes:

  • Anti-itch creams, to reduce itching and inflammation
  • An oral steroid that can help the rash or bumps
  • Avoiding or minimizing exposure to what is causing the rash

Contact a healthcare provider to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan.

Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction to certain foods can also cause bumps on the elbow.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When an allergic reaction happens due to gluten, it is called dermatitis herpetiformis. It is similar to the rash that develops in people who have celiac disease.

Another name for dermatitis herpetiformis is gluten rash or celiac rash. This rash is common on the knees, hairline, buttocks, and elbows. This is a condition that comes and goes. It is due to a gluten sensitivity and is not contagious.  

Treatment

Treatment for dermatitis herpetiformis starts with consuming a gluten-free diet. Oral medication such as dapsone is known to relieve the itching for the red bumps on the elbows.

A nutritionist and a healthcare provider can help with a treatment plan. The nutritionist can help create a food plan that is gluten free.

Poison Oak or Ivy

When a person comes in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, they can develop an itchy skin rash. This is due to the sap that the plants produce called urushiol, which creates an allergic reaction that is itchy.

Symptoms include:

  • A rash that itches
  • Discoloration
  • Blisters

Poison ivy can become contagious if a person comes in contact with a person who has the rash. If it is on clothing or other materials, it can also spread. Although it itches, it is recommended not to scratch the rash, as the skin may bleed and cause infection from bacteria.

Treatment

Over-the-counter options for treatment include anti-itch creams, like calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams, as well as antihistamines. Cold compresses can help relieve itching.

At times, prescription medication is needed. If this is the case, contact a healthcare provider. They can give you proper medication to help reduce the rash and itching.

At-Home Relief

Having itchy bumps on the elbow can be discomforting. There are treatments to try at home to reduce the symptoms. The reason you have itchy bumps on your elbows will determine what should be used to reduce the itchiness and pain.

Some options for at-home relief include:

  • Oatmeal baths
  • Topical ointments to enhance moisture
  • Cold compresses
  • Over-the-counter medications

If you are not sure what to try, contact a healthcare provider. They can help you determine what is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis looks like thick, raised patches on the skin that are dry. Typically, they are covered with a scaly coating that is silvery and white. This is the most common sign. Depending on the type of psoriasis, where it is located, and the amount, the look varies.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

When a healthcare provider diagnoses psoriasis, your skin, scalp, and nails will be examined. A healthcare provider will ask questions regarding symptoms, any relatives who have psoriasis, joint problems, or any recent lifestyle changes. They may also take a skin culture to determine a psoriasis diagnosis.

What’s the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

Symptoms of eczema include dry, itchy, crusting skin. There are, at times, scaly leathery patches of skin. The skin is also known to swell. The symptoms are similar to psoriasis. The difference is that the scales on the skin due to psoriasis tend to be thicker with well-defined edges.

A Word From Verywell

Itchy bumps on elbows can be aggravating. The good news is there is relief.

Depending on the condition and the reason why itchy bumps are on the elbows, there are options both over-the-counter and through a healthcare provider that can help.

If you have continuous discomfort, questions, or concerns, contact a healthcare provider. They can help answer any questions, address concerns, and give you a plan that will relieve the symptoms.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. What is psoriasis?

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Eczema. Updated October 28, 2020.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Contact dermatitis. Updated October 10, 2019.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Dermatitis herpetiformis. Updated October 28, 2020.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac: who gets a rash, and is it contagious? Updated June 1, 2018.